A Sacred Urban Menstruation Ritual by Elisabeth Schilling

BeachIf I had such an opportunity, I would not hesitate to bleed free in a moonlit forest with other women during the flow of blood from our wombs in sacred ritual. This said, I currently take on a nurturing and maternal role for myself, the earth and humanity through the creation and use of my reusable menstruation cloths.

According to Nina Rastogi of slate.com and Elissa Stein and Susan Kim of Flow, the average American menstruating person could accrue about 62,415 pounds of waste in a lifetime. 

In the midst of over consumption and our throwaway culture, I look at minimalism and mindful consumption as a way to connect in healthy ways with my body and the bodies of the earth.

As I begin to maintain and sustain the clothing that I keep instead of buying new clothing, I find myself sewing, mostly mending, more and more. So it was both easy and satisfying to take some thick, organic cotton fabric and stitch layers of it into the lining of my underwear that now are beautiful and comfortable period panties.

After use, I rinse out the underwear and set it aside for when I do laundry, and then reach for a clean pair. It is really that simple.

There are options such as Luna Pads or GladRags if you do not want to make your own, or for something closer to a tampon, the Diva Cup or Moon Cup.

This is a sacred ritual for me because I feel more connected with my flow as I watch the blood rinse with water in the shower (where my personal rinsing happens) and because it helps me reduce my participation in the earth as marketplace.

Sometimes the only power I feel that I have to protest excessive consumerism and desperation and violence that occur due to hierarchies created by mindless capitalism is to refuse to signal to companies producing products that they are needed in increasing quantity. I have power in my life to consume less food, clothing, and fewer hygiene and beauty products, and to begin to tend to my insecurities, anxieties, depression, and boredom in healthy ways rather than emotional consumption. Obviously I am one person with one particular body and life environment, and switching from disposable pads to these comfortable and long-lasting (so far) cotton cozies is hardly a sacrifice. I feel more physically and emotionally nourished, and I do not need to spend any more money for a while, which is a benefit. Other menstruating persons might have other bodies or flow situations where this is not such an appealing option, and that is wonderful as well because we can all contribute to more mindful consumption in different ways.

LaChelle Schilling, Ph.D., graduated in 2014 from the Women and Religion program at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches an online composition class at Oklahoma State University from a contemplative pedagogical approach. Currently, she is working on a book project titled Minimalism, Mindfulness, and the Middle Way, incorporating guidance from sacred wisdom literatures. She is also working on certification as a yoga instructor.

Author: Elisabeth S.

Elisabeth S. has a Ph.D. in Religion from Claremont Graduate University (2014) and teaches philosophy, literature, creative writing and composition in Colorado.

23 thoughts on “A Sacred Urban Menstruation Ritual by Elisabeth Schilling”

  1. Lovely and important post. These methods didn’t work for me because of my a-mazing heavy flow. I think the cup overflowed onto everything after about an hour. But for those who can use them, a very good idea.

    I also think we should be thinking about diapers. I folded thousands of them when my brother was a baby. Now …


    1. I used a terrycloth cover over folded terrycloth that fit inside. Now that I no longer need them, does anyone have suggestions for reusing/recycling? I doubt anyone would want used ones. I was just looking at them the other day . . .


      1. How amazing to be at that point you are. I would be so proud to look at mine no longer needed and knowing they have been used so well. I think Carol’s idea of composting and returning to the earth is a wonderful idea and could be a very special celebration. Or, and I’m not sure about this, but would it be possible to think about a ritual of passing one or more down to those we are close to whom are embarking on that stage of life? Imagining myself as a young daughter receiving, I might think it kind of wonderful.


      2. Thanks, Carol. Composting should have occurred to me. I assume that they’re cotton. Will have to think of an appropriate ritual – perhaps in the fall, along with the harvest.


    2. Thank you so much for your response and idea. Yes, I feel as if I have so much to learn about cutting back on waste in every aspect of my life, and so if I should ever have a little one in my life, I’ll think about that too.


  2. Thanks for this wonderful post! Reducing our needs or finding ways outside the marketplace to meet them has so many practical, economic, and spiritual benefits. And it wasn’t so many generations ago that meeting your own needs was something that was just expected – my grandmother made clothes for three generations of family and taught me how to make my own, too. So many of the events that brought women together in earlier times — quilting bees, corn husking bees, etc. — were for the purpose of meeting basic needs for things we just buy now and we have lost some of the sense of community they provided. Good for you for finding ways to bring back this way of thinking!


    1. Thank you so much for your kindness. You’ve articulated this beautifully, for I really do feel it does. I’m so glad to be having this conversation with others because perhaps we can learn from each other how to re-purpose and reduce more. I agree with and appreciate the idea that fostering community can play a role in and be a beneficial consequence of thinking more about self-sustaining ways. I think one of the tragedies of the marketplace is a compromising of intimacy in relationships. So I really love that you’ve brought that out.


  3. Something I say every time I see a post/comment about menstruation, because I learned it too late. As you approach its end, dip a Q-tip in your blood every month and write the date on a card. That way, you’ll have the date in a ritual way to use in a croning or other welcoming the next stage of life ritual.


  4. Great, LaChelle! I was only recently thinking back to my first menstruation cloth pads, which were self-made and given to me by my Mom. We were both washing our own pads until disposable hygiene products actually arrived on the market in Russia. We found them amazing because it made our life so much easier. 7 years ago I turned to using MoonCup and have been advertising it to all my female friends.


  5. Good to hear from you! This is an important contribution — a subject we are taught as women to distance ourselves from. The environmental impact of hygiene products is news to me but makes sense. Another component in the cost of these products, a justice issue for some I would imagine.


    1. Hey, love, thank you. I myself never thought about it until recently. I went from the typical Kotex to a few weeks of Seventh Generation, looking for something organic for my body, but then that was just a hyperlink away from this idea. I agree with you that we are taught to distance ourselves from this dialogue. But I knew that here would be a safe space to write about it. I’m so glad it is. Thank you so much for your comment.


  6. Loved this post. I find it amazing that women in the West are thinking of going back to “primitive” ways, while we Indians are resorting more and more to Western capitalist and consumerist ideals. My mother’s generation was into the way of the cloth; some of my own peers also used fabric when they first started menstruating in the 80s. I don’t see that happening anymore. Barring the first time when I got my period – when my mum presented me with a torn-off piece of a freshly washed cotton sari – I myself have never resorted to using cloth. Thank you for making me realize the value of our old, more sustainable ways.


    1. I remember my mother (in the US) being so grateful for disposable pads. As a young woman she had trouble folding the cloth and holding it in place so that it wouldn’t show under the type of clothing that was then in fashion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it took me awhile to realize that sewing the cloth in place would take care of some problems. But it is true that I tend to be more strategic in what I wear when I use my cloths. Looser clothing helps.


  7. Love this post. Being mindful waste is so important. I feel that we are being so backward in terms of waste produced through sanitary products every year, we are getting so much better in our disposal of other types of waste but sanitary waste is such a taboo, we need to find ways to bring this discussion out into the open.


    1. Thank you. Finding the right materials for myself was becoming a problem in terms of cost, comfort, and responsibility that this is one small way I feel I can do something good for my body and my earth-home.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi!
    I’ve recently started a blog and its going to be exploring a lot of different topics because its my primary outlet for thought and we (humans) are complicated creatures with many feelings and opinions, but one of the topics I would LOVE to explore with others is menstruation. I think its insane that something that over half the world experiences first hand is still considered “taboo” and would like to start getting it into the spotlight. I only got started o this project a few days ago, and I’m not a pro with blogging or wordpress, so feel free to follow or comment or contact me with suggestions.

    The plan is to start with my own experiences, maybe throw in a few period promotional works, but eventually (when there is a certain level of interest), I would like to start sharing and reblogging other peoples stories and views, through a category called “My menstrual miracles”

    I can see how this would seem like a lot of self promotion, but I really would love to get some support and suggestions on how to break this stigma.


    So check it out (or don’t)
    but keep being badasses, that are taking control of both their bodies and the internet! xxx
    Elizabeth Rose


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